I thought finding the perfect Prom Dress is much like finding a perfect man—impossible to find. Even if you happen to find one, it’ll probably still need alterations. My prom dresses over the years have been the epitome of my identity. Dresses for me have never been about dress codes or impressions, they’ve been the culmination of my existence, the core of my essence represented in silks and beads and tulle. I thought very long and hard about what I wore, and each dress, over the course of my High School life, have each displayed who I was.
Freshmen year I had worn a tea length champagne-colored Calvin Klein. It was still playful and young, not yet ready to commit to floor length, but longer than the kids-section dresses I had worn to middle school socials. I was ready for something more sophisticated. The champagne color inspired tears from my mother as she realized I was old enough to be going to Prom—the greatest stepping-stone that pointed out the obvious; I was past childhood. Past innocence and American Girl Dolls, and her worries had to shift. Alcohol and bad boys now filled the spot where lice and broken bones once resided in her mind.
The playful floral cutouts pinned along the bust line was an accurate representation of my date; my “boyfriend” of just a few weeks—the epitome of every freshmen relationship. You know the kind: the conversations-over-texts, too-awkward-to-spend-time-alone kind of romance. It was over before school was out for summer, ending quicker than it had started. I had no desire for a boyfriend. I had never succumbed to giving up anything for a guy, and wasn’t planning on starting when I was fifteen years old. I’ve never been the type to endlessly pine and daydream for a relationship for the sake of relationships. I’ve always loved my independence, as hopelessly romantic as I am.
Little did I know that a year later I would be back to Prom, with a different date and a different boyfriend. But this time, my date was worth every ounce of “independence” I gave up. It was not a relationship for the sake of relationships; it was a relationship for the sake of him. And I was in love. I wore a floor length dress (finally ready for the sophistication) that was a cross between red and pink: between innocence and adulthood. I knew He would like the color, and I left my hair down since I knew He’d like it better than in an updo. I hadn’t meant to, but I thought of him in every step of the way. The complicated process of getting ready for Prom had included him more than I expected or he knew. But I was still myself, in every Old-Hollywood-inspired wave and every swipe of crimson lipstick.
A year later, I was back again, picking a dress for my Junior Year Prom, with the same date, now a two-year relationship. But I’d learn some things since last Prom. I’d finally become a woman, reaching full elegance in a long black dress with beading over the cap-sleeve shoulders and down the length of the dress. It was simple in shape, but the beading showed my necessary frivolity, my need for excitement, and my incontestable boredom with anything or anyone too plain. My unfortunate updo and caked on makeup taught me my date would think I was stunning, no matter what I was in, which is really something I’d known since I met him. It was His last Prom, as he was a year older than I was. I will never forget the look on his face as I walked down the stairs. It was awestruck, something I hadn’t expected from him with my 80’s style up-do gone-wrong and my clown makeup. But then again, this was the boy who had kissed my face repeatedly after I’d gotten my wisdom teeth out, the boy who had thought I was perfect when I was an awkward fifteen-year-old, and loved me more after every dramatic tear I shed to him. I should’ve known better. Needless to say, it was the best night of my life and he twirled me around the dance floor, like the perfect, sparkling array of beads twirling around the tulle fabric on my dress.
But then he had to go, with a sad goodbye. He was off to college, to a place with no Proms and no trace of me at all. What would I be this year without him? What would I do without his look as I walked down the stairs? What dress would I wear, if I didn’t have him in mind every step of the process?
But underneath the pink-red satin and the beaded tulle was the same girl I had always been: secure in my independence and never one to mope for a man. I thought I wanted a pale colored halter dress this year, but when I saw an Emerald Green mermaid gown, I knew I had to have it. I’ve always believed this color is the essence of me; bright and chic and perfect; my soul mate. It was the dress that was just as much myself as I was, the simple, classically cut dress that still stood out in a sea of blues and pinks. It was the dress you’d see in an Old Hollywood movie, fitted in the hips and flaring out into a heaven of perfect pleats. My date was my bestest friend of four years, the greatest friend I’ve ever had, and will ever have in my life. He’s loved me through all my boy troubles, from the champagne Calvin Klein to the Beaded Tulle. He’s made me laugh almost every day for four years, he’s been my savior, my therapist, my family. He is my Emerald Green.
As we laughed our way through our very last Prom, I realized the perfect dress is just like the perfect man. When you find it, it will fit like a glove, even if it’s not the type you were looking for. I thought “perfect” would be pastel-colored halter, or a deep romantic relationship of two years with someone I had loved entirely. It turns out “perfect” is really an Emerald Green mermaid gown and the bestest friend I could ever ask for. I thought finding the perfect Prom Dress was like finding a perfect man—impossible to find; even if you happen to find one, it’ll probably still need alterations. Turns out, I had both the perfect Prom Dress and the perfect Man. And only one of them needed alterations.